Volleyball begins homestand against MAC East leader Akron
After his team suffered their first loss in over a month, Central Michigan volleyball coach Mike Gawlik quickly shifted his focus.
The Chippewas will play coming off a loss for the first time since the DePaul Invitational on Sept. 13 when they welcome in the Akron Zips at 6 p.m. Friday at McGuirk Arena.
The Zips come into the matchup at 14-5 overall with a 7-1 mark in the conference that is identical to the Chippewas. They are winners of three-straight matches. Their lone conference loss came on Oct. 11 a 3-1 loss to Ohio.
"We know they're good," Gawlik said. "They know we're good. It should be fun."
Each team boasts an award winner from the previous week. The Zips boast the East Division Setter of the Week in junior Emily Weigand, while the Chippewas counter with the West Division Defensive Player of the Week in sophomore middle blocker Maddie Whitfield.
Akron senior middle blocker Ashley Richardson is second in the Mid-American Conference in hitting percentage, while Chippewa junior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez is third. Both teams have a setter in the conference top-10 with CMU sophomore Kendall Braate joining Akron's Weigand.
The two teams are just as close from a team statistical standpoint. The Zips boast the Mid-American Conference's top hitting percentage. However, the Chippewas counter with the best opponent hitting percentage. Central Michigan is tops in many defensive categories, while the Zips lead many of the offensive stats.
"I don't think our offense has been where we wanted over the last three matches," said Gawlik. "We've been winning matches because of our defensive blocking. We need to stay high in that category and push in the offensive category."
Gawlik noted that a key to winning Friday's matchup will be limiting the high-powered offensive attack that Akron brings through their serving. He likened it to a similar concept in the game of football.
"Service pressure is like a pass rush. You've gotta put pressure on the quarterback, or in this case the setter, and speed up their decision-making process," he said.
The matchup with Akron is the first of a five-game homestand for the Chippewas. After the match with the Zips, Central Michigan next takes the court at 5 p.m. Saturday against Buffalo.